Aerospace tech eyed for drill, flow optimization

Gains in Rate of Penetration (ROP) from using closed loop technology have shown that oil and gas operators can benefit from technology advancements made in the aerospace sector.

Credit: National Oilwell Varco (NOV)

Automation measures in the on-stream period, such as fiber optic cables, can boost production levels by as much as 15%, David Brower, Founder of high tech firm Astro Technology, told Upstream Intelligence.

Oil and gas companies are examining technology from the aerospace industry in a bid to increase the use of automation.

The aerospace industry is seen as a model because of its advancements in automation strategies – illustrated, for example, by the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones.

Closed-loop systems employ sensor outputs to supervise processes and allow the rig’s drilling equipment to be monitored according to downhole data.

The Wired Drill Pipe provided by IntelliServ, a subsidiary of NOV Wellbore, can boost the Rate of Penetration (ROP) on oil and gas projects by as much as 40% when combined with closed loop technology, according to the company.

“Considerable time is spent acquiring downhole data while drilling each well, and eliminating this time through faster transmission speeds can be worth several days per well. Additionally, Wired Drill Pipe enables more productive use of “on-bottom” drilling time, with ROP improvements of over 25% recently achieved by eliminating data-related limiters. When coupled with new closed-loop drilling automation technologies developed by NOV, ROP gains can exceed 40%”, NOV said in a short statement.

Closed Loop Drilling Automation led to a 20-40% ROP increase, 50% reduction in additional bits/[bottom hole assemblies], 15% reduction in circulation time, 20% increase in open-hole trip speed and a reduction of five days per well, according to a presentation made by the company earlier this year.

The projects that benefit the most from Wired Drill Pipe technology are high volume drilling campaigns - on land or in shallow waters offshore - where there may be 20-30 plus wells to drill over several years, Andrew Craig, Vice President of Business Development at NOV, said.

The three current major markets for the Wired Drill Pipe are the North Sea, onshore in the United States such as the Texas’ Eagle Ford and North Dakota’s Bakken high volume shale plays, and more recently the Middle East, Craig said.

Rate of penetration is a major driver of drilling costs, which, in the North Sea, typically amount to around $800,000 per day for a large rig and $500,000 for a smaller rig, while the cost for US onshore rigs might be around $100,000, Craig said.

For a high volume onshore well, ROP is one of the most important cost drivers as drilling time may represent more than half of the total well delivery time, he said.

John Hedengren, Professor at Brigham Young University, said the reliability of wired drill pipe technology has been improved following feedback from potential users.

“The drilling community is optimistic about the potential for wired drill pipe, but is concerned about reliability and benefits that justify the cost. The reliability has been addressed and it is now much better than former performance,” Hedengren said.

Next generation technology is also providing the flexible system architecture to include base level automation and control, and new “apps” that are designed to work with the base level controls and high speed communication networks, he said.

NOV sees “continuous growth offshore in the North Sea – as more large development projects get sanctioned and begin to drill – we also see big growth onshore the US,” Craig said.

“We do look to expand into some of the Asia-Pacific markets, in high volume drilling campaigns in places like the Gulf of Thailand, offshore Malaysia, as well as offshore Australia,” he said.

Fiber boost

The oil and gas industry is also looking to boost online production by using automation technologies and these measures can increase production by around 15%, according to David Brower, founder of Clear Gulf Joint Industry Project, a collaboration between NASA and oil and gas companies.

In particular, automation can improve production monitoring after the well is drilled, in order to ensure structural integrity, flow assurance, and improve parameter control, he said. 

Huge benefits can be obtained in the case of flow assurance problems, such as hydrate blocking. The prevention of shutdowns that could last for months may lead to savings of millions of dollars a day, Brower said.

A monitoring system that utilizes a combination of new tools, such as fiber optic sensing systems, can provide very reliable and accurate data, Brower said.

“If you have a subsea tieback, you can measure multiple spots without degradation of signal,” he said.

This new fiber optic system is “a phenomenal breakthrough,” thanks to the enhancements in bandwidth and measurable distances, he said.

“You greatly reduce the number of fibers that have to be deployed,” Brower adds.

This leads to big cost savings due to increased production potential, the reduction of unplanned shutdown events, and mitigation of anomalous events, Brower said.

The impact of a typical anomaly that stops production can result in approximately ten million dollars per day - additionally, the new technology simplifies data analysis and data acquisition, he added.

Brower estimates that these developments can allow operators to save at least half of the instrumentation costs on a four to five million dollar instrumentation project.